Rant/Rave: Through Rosé-Colored Glasses

1212420150Especially in Boston, where chefs and restaurateurs tend to tiptoe down the safe route wherever possible, it’s refreshing to see the occasional spark of daring.

Lounging al fresco on the fabulous square-front patio at Eastern Standard one recent evening, I decided (quite uncharacteristically) to pass on bar manager Jackson Cannon‘s matchless cocktail list in favor of a glass of wine. The by-the-glass list featured the usual five or six white options, five or six reds, a sparkling wine or two. Then…eight rosés. Eight rosés? That’s, like, at least seven more than most restaurants offer on the entire menu, let alone by the glass.

Even self-styled Southern French restaurants, like La Voile and the Intercontinental’s Miel, which should be leading the rosé revolution (the world’s best rosés come from Provence and the Côte d’Azur, just down the Riviera from Cannes), muster only one or two choices.

Said our earnest server: “We’re ramping up the rosé menu for the warm weather!” Before pre-empting some poor freelance writer’s exclusive scoop on the subject: “One of the local city mags is writing about it in the next week or two!”

Given that the topic isn’t on any of my own upcoming lineups for Boston‘s food section, I can only presume that Stuff@night or the Improper will be blowing the lid off this baby in a forthcoming issue. No doubt under the breathless headline “Think Pink!” (exclamation point optional, but quite likely) and with a lot of splashing-about on how this isn’t your father’s cloyingly sweet white zinfandel anymore. (You know: As though rosé-as-a-dry-wine is still newsworthy, or that anyone’s father actually drinks white zin. But, well, I digress.)

Eastern Standard’s rosé richesse is exciting news for three, partially overlapping reasons:
(1) My father can finally move on from that cloying-Beringer rut he’s been stuck in.

(2) It’s a rare chance for local quaffers to compare and contrast the full, satisfying spectrum of rosé flavor profiles—from floral and berry-addled, to bone-dry and mineral—without investing in full bottles. And in prime fresco seating, to boot.

(3) It’s nice to see a wine program that leads public taste, not follows it slavishly.

On the last point, it’s what I’ve always admired about Cat Silirie, wine director at the No. 9 Park Group. While most wines-by-the-glass lists read like the results of some bland, committee-driven focus group—four Chardonnays, five Pinot Grigios, five Pinot Noirs (no Merlots, please), etc.—the wine lists she puts together are about the wines she likes to drink (Austrian and Italian, especially odder varietals) and what pairs well with food, the public be damned. In particular, her “Grüner Veltliner of the Day” at the Butcher Shop is a refreshing slap in the face to every corporate restaurant consultant in America.

Likewise, Eastern Standard. Here’s a toast to the notion that we can still learn a thing or two from a restaurant that cares enough to challenge the status quo—not to mention our palates.